What is the difference between self-esteem and self-compassion?

Ronald Siegel
People sometimes confuse self-esteem with self-compassion. The two are quite different. Self-esteem requires you to compare yourself to others: to feel that you're "better" than other people in some way. On the other hand, self-compassion requires no comparison to others, but rather involves being warm and understanding toward yourself even at times of failure . So self-compassion is available whether you are feeling up or down. In fact, it is often stronger when things are not going your way. Self-esteem, instead, tends to plummet when things go badly.

Self-esteem vs. self-compassion:

  • Based on self-evaluation
  • Based on comparison with others
  • Based on feeling special, different, or above average
  • Associated with a lack of tolerance for alternate viewpoints
  • Fluctuates depending on whether you feel up or down
  • Based on feeling warm and accepting of oneself
  • Not based on comparison with others
  • Not based on feeling different from others
  • Emphasizes interconnection rather than an egocentric defensiveness
  • Exists consistently whether you feel up or down

Continue Learning about Personality


When we have a sense of self that allows us to interact appropriate with the world and other people we have a functional personality. Some forms of mental illness can skew the thought process so it interferes with how we deal with ...

others. People with personality disorders may abuse drugs, may have lots of ups and downs in relationships, may have trouble making friends, may be isolated. There are many different kinds of disorders, but its important to know that it is possible to overcome them.

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.